DIY products and gardening essentials, laptops and TVs among items most in demand online.

The COVID-19 pandemic is resulting in millions of consumers worldwide increasingly shopping for goods, services and entertainment online, due to quarantine or stay-home advisories.

Online transaction volumes in most retail sectors have seen a 74% rise in March compared to the same period last year, while online gaming has seen a staggering increase of 97%, according to analysis of hundreds of millions of transactions from global online retailers by electronic payments specialist ACI Worldwide.

Said Debbie Guerra, executive vice president, ACI Worldwide: “During these unprecedented and uncertain times with millions now at home, many consumers are going online to purchase products or services. Quarantine has changed lives for all of us, with consumers buying electronics and furniture—to support work, communication, school and entertainment—as well as items such as home goods and DIY products.”

However, fraud is on the increase too, the research shows, as fraudsters are using the surge in online activity to target unsuspecting consumers and merchants. Merchants are starting to experience dramatic increases in COVID-19-related phishing activities, with stolen credentials released into the e-commerce payments chain, as well as increased friendly fraud activities.

Key findings of the report include:

Online retail sectors with rising transaction volumes in March 2020 compared to the previous year include: 

  • Home products and furnishings: +97%
  • DIY products: +136%
  • Garden essentials: +163%
  • Electronics: +26.6%
  • Telco: +18.6%

Online retail sectors with declining transaction volumes in the same period:

  • Ticketing: -60%
  • Travel: -44 percent%
  • Online dating: -8.9%

Fraud Trends:

  • Average fraudulent attempted purchase value increased by $36 in March, driven by electronic and retail goods; this corresponds to a fraudulent attempted transactional value increase by 13%.
  • Fraudulent attempted transactional volume decreased by 8%, driven by increase of fraudulent attempt purchase value. 

“Long term, we and others in the industry predict that the shift in consumer behaviour—opting for online purchases—is likely to outlast the crisis,” concluded Guerra. “The industry is well ahead of the curve in adapting payment methods and ways to combat fraud in response to the changing behaviour patterns and expectations of consumers (caused) by the lockdown.”

Tips for safe online shopping

  • Beware of online requests for personal information. Coronavirus-themed emails seeking personal information are likely to be phishing scams. Legitimate government agencies will not ask for that information. Delete the email.
  • Check the email address or link. Inspect a link by hovering the mouse button over the URL to see where it leads. Sometimes, it is obvious the web address is not legitimate. But keep in mind phishers can create links that closely resemble legitimate addresses. Delete the email.
  • Watch for typographical and grammatical mistakes. If an email includes spelling, punctuation and grammar errors, it is likely a sign of a phishing email. Delete the email.
  • Look for generic greetings. Phishing emails are unlikely to use a person’s name. Greetings like “Dear sir or madam” often signal an email is not legitimate.
  • Avoid emails that insist on immediate action. Phishing emails often try to create a sense of urgency or demand immediate action. Delete the email.

Tips for safe e-retailing

  • Maintain security and deliver a great customer experience, as consumer purchasing behaviour—both genuine and fraudulent—has changed. For example:
    • Express shipment and Buy-Online Pickup In-Store delivery methods in the last two weeks have tripled, making transaction decision speed and accuracy critical.
    • Use customer profiling and time-on-file techniques to maintain the customer experience for valued customers and ensure good transactions are still accepted.
  • Expect an increase in Friendly Fraud chargebacks as a result of growing financial difficulties among consumers. Friendly fraud occurs when a cardholder receives goods, but denies making a purchase, or a family member makes purchase without cardholder approval.
    • Monitor systems and update as necessary. Business intelligence tools and real-time monitoring lead to immediate decisions and responses. Employ rapid access to fraud intelligence to inform rules changes in real time.
    • Engage frequently with web and mobile site security management. Give these teams the tools, techniques and procedures to detect, contain and mitigate botnets. Considering the presence of both good and bad bots, put business policies in place to address this issue with clarity for both teams.